Facebook rejects political bias claims on 'Trending Topics' list

Facebook has emphasised that it does not permit employees to block news stories from its ‘Trending Topics’ list based on political bias, amid controversy over how the social media site selects what news it displays.

Mark Zuckerberg responded to accusations that its company’s ‘trending’ topics list was suppressing conservative media, by saying the company was conducting an investigation.

No evidence of manipulation had been found, but “if we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it”, Mr Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.

Technology news website Gizmodo on Monday reported that a former Facebook employee said workers “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers” while “artificially” adding other stories to the trending list.

The story triggered a reaction on social media, with several journalists and commentators raising concerns about alleged bias, and prompted a US senate inquiry.

The social media company had more than 1bn daily active users on average in March, according to statistics the company posted to its newsroom.

In a post published to Facebook’s media relations section, a senior company official outlined its ‘Trending Topics’ guidelines at length.

“Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to discriminate against sources of any political origin, period,” wrote Justin Osofsky, vice president for global operations. “We have a series of checks and balances in place to help surface the most important popular stories, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum.”

Potential trending topics are identified by an algorithm, or formula, Facebook said, then reviewed by a ‘Trending Topics’ team.

Gizmodo editor-in-chief Katie Drummond responded to the post with an email saying: “I don’t see anything that contradicts our reporting, do you?”


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